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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Should we teach web publishing?

Posted by Miranda on November 3, 2009

We do not teach web 2.0 tools or online communication mores at the school where I work.
I think this is very unfortunate.

We now have two platforms for web publishing here on campus, a media server, KUtube, and a WordPressMU installation.

The faculty who have set up blogs on our WordPress install have needed help to do so, they do not instinctively know how to use the tool even in a technical sense. Why would we assume students would? It is obvious, looking at one of the few student owned blogs, one for ModelUN, that this student had no idea how to use the platform – he commented on the example post from Mr. WordPress and then abandoned the blog entirely.

Yet when they go out into the world, our students will need to know how to create web content and how to join in the online conversation as a citizen of the world.

Even the Chairman of the Republican party has a blog, though I’m awfully disappointed that he changed the title from “What Up”.
I am not saying that students need to learn how to negotiate blogs in particular, the method is not so important I think. What’s important is that they learn the etiquette, the mores of web publishing.
I read in the Baltimore Sun that

In Anne Arundel County, an online course that began last month is required for staff members who want to create a wiki, said Val Emrich, the instructional technology manager. It includes an Internet safety component, along with how-to lessons on setting up the sites and using them for instruction, she said, as does another for blogging. For students, a mandatory digital citizenship curriculum was launched in social studies and health classes this year, Emrich said.

emphasis is mine

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faculty workshops

Posted by Miranda on October 31, 2009

There’s been a big push on to get faculty thinking about possible distance learning tools in the light of the H1N1 virus. We’ve all been asked to think about how we’d deal with either faculty or students being isolated for a period of time.
Our school website incorporates most of the things they would need to communicate class requirements like assignments, schedule. They can post links, upload documents and so forth, even embed audio and video. It does lack interactivity for the students – it’s all one way.

My colleague Steve and I have been doing workshops all the last week and a half and that’s been a LOT of fun. He’s done the ones on WordPress and I’ve been doing wikis and Moodle. We have a Moodle install on campus – we were actually planning on retiring it. It is enjoying a brief rennaissance. Why wikis, WordPress and Moodle? We have local installs of Moodle and WordPress and we were asked to do something on wikis. More to come if I have anything to say about it.

I think I learn more at these things than the teachers do sometimes.
I had a really interesting project this morning – A teaching intern in the science department set up a wiki and then wanted to embed a spreadsheet of environmental data that students could update.

They are studying Blow Me Down Brook, a local stream, and its corresponding watershed. The obvious to me answer was to keep the spreadsheet in Google Docs, I could get that far.

That meant a quick tutorial on Google Docs (which I have used sometimes but really am not that familiar with). Then he had to set up an account at Google, and upload a spreadsheet (he could have created a new one there of course) into his brand new Google Docs account.
Then we shared the document. We ran into a snag here because as test students we were getting prompted to log in to Google to edit the embedded sheet. We didn’t want them to have to log in of course.
With a little tinkering with permissions, now all his students can edit the spreadsheet and have the embedded sheet update dynamically. Very cool! I started telling the teaching intern how his students could work with google maps to add markers to the Google map of the watershed area they are studying, with photographs, overlays and all the rest.. He said I was making his brain explode and we would have to talk about it later.

Oh, I love this stuff!

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we do not serve them well

Posted by Miranda on September 20, 2009

Two of the faculty asked me to sit in on classes while they introduced the blogging platform we’ve set up. I really enjoyed getting a taste of what the school is supposed to be about – learning, education. I think that often those of us in departments that do not teach tend to forget that this is the raison d’etre of our employment. I do at least. So it’s been good for me to hear the students in the class discussions, and see how good teachers teach.

It’s been pretty disturbing though, to see again that so many of our students are woefully ignorant of the tools that they use – the internet, software and the computer itself. In the last week I had one student tell me that he supposed that the reason he could not access a certain web address was because his battery was low. Another studiously typed a full internet URL – the whole thing beginning with http:// into her Google Search bar, coming up with search results every time.

Many of our students have no idea how to double-space a document or center text in Microsoft Word. I see kids that put a return after every line to double-space or center using the space bar. As for using the interactive web – creating web content instead of mindlessly consuming.. forget it.

In one of the classes a teacher asked the students – “how many of you feel comfortable with technology?”

Out of the class, three or four hesitantly raised hands. Yet over and over I have faculty and administration blithely tell me how kids today have no trouble with technology, that they just naturally pick it up, that there isn’t any need to teach them anything about it.

Bull. I disagree strongly. We are sending these kids off to college with no idea how to use these tools and I really think we are doing them a disservice.

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Putting Hartford, VT on the map

Posted by Miranda on June 9, 2009

I read with great interest an article in the local paper, the Valley News today Creating Hartford on the Web about a course at a local high school

Designed and co-taught by social studies teachers Mike Hathorn and Woody Rothe, the course marries the Internet and cutting-edge online mapping technology with more traditional research and communication skills.

View the result at Creating A History of Hartford
This is very very impressive! Imagine how these students feel having their imagery and research integrated into Google Earth. This is the kind of result schools can get when they are not afraid of letting students engage with the world audience available.

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Oh by the way..

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2009

An email this morning asks if we, meaning the school, has the setup-up for a distance learning lab, a “virtual classroom”
This teacher wants to do some distance training, share computer screens, videos. Obviously she’ll want chat. Also mentions having the distance learners access some of the software installed to her desktop. Hmm.
Well Moodle will do for some of it. Probably won’t be as slick looking as this particular teacher likes. Will look into web conferencing tools.

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Remembering Seventh Street

Posted by Miranda on March 5, 2008

I heard an interesting piece on NPR last night during my drive home. It was about a video game some journalism students are developing about the history of 7th Street, in Oakland, California. The game is called Remembering Seventh Street.
Paul Grabowicz is behind it and has an interesting post about it at MediaShift’s IdeaLab.
Seventh Street has a history as a blues music scene and Mr. Grabowicz writes:

I had been frustrated by the limitations of a print story to really give people a sense of what 7th Street was like. Creating a virtual world replica of 7th Street offered the opportunity for people to actually experience the music scene in a way that no other media form could approach.

I think this is a really cool idea. Our school’s experience with using Civilization III in classes has been very successful. Why not virtual experiences on all sorts of topics?
I think of my brother’s recent pilgrimage to Memphis and how it has moved him and given him a greater understanding of the music that he loves so much. Not everyone can travel there but a virtual world and game based on the history of Beale Street would be a wonderful thing…

Every community in America has a 7th Street – some aspect of its heritage or history that has been lost and could be brought back to life in a video game. Since we started the 7th Street project, we’ve learned about similar jazz and blues club scenes in cities all across the country – from Detroit and Houston to Newark and the Bronx.

A newspaper or other local news organization needs to be more than just a pipeline for informing people about current news and events. It also should provide context for people to understand their community and its history.

A video game can do that, by letting people re-live the history of their communities and understand not just what’s happening today but what came before.

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Power Up The Game

Posted by Miranda on February 28, 2008

From Technology News Daily comes Power Up The Game
a new multiplayer (or solo) game.

The game is part of IBM’s TryScience initiative and will be launched at Engineer’s Week 2008 opening on February 16 in Washington, D.C. The game, which can be played alone or together, features a planet in near ecological ruin where three exciting missions for solar, wind and water power must be solved before sandstorms, floods or SmogGobs thwart the rescue.

I’ve talked about KUA’s use of Civilization III in history classes before (see this video). Perhaps this might be good on the science side. I do see that:

Nearly 200 teens in the Connecticut Innovation Academy served as advisors to IBM researchers during the game development.

a hopeful note. I’ll download it and let my gaming consultant (Chris, age 17) give me a review.

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Learning Communities

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2008

And more.. From the Thetford Academy Newsletter (via email)

SNAPSHOTS: In and around TA classrooms…

• Just before the break eighth-grade Computer Literacy students were
exploring the concept of “learning community” as it develops in
online formats, with classmates in the computer lab, and more
generally in the school at large. Here is a sampling of the
definitions they wrote, summarizing the idea in their own words:

“I feel that a learning community is a place where students come
together to the same conclusions after being together for some time.
They learn what the others think about a particular topic and combine
that with their own thinking.”

“:Learning Community (noun): a place where nobody is really in charge
of what people are learning, but instead are all learning together
and helping each other out.

“To me, a learning community is a great way to hold a class. It’s
different from all my other classes where the teacher is basically
helping you along the way. Here, we are given our assignments with
the general knowledge given, and we sky rocket from there. We help
each other when we have computer problems and we also help each other
out when we have questions. The good thing about a learning community
is that the kids are teaching kids and the kids are learning from
other kids, but in more of a casual way rather than being “proper”,

like the way you would approach a teacher. Personally, I like being
part of a learning community because it’s a great way to interact
with other kids in the class and maybe even start new friendships
from communicating in class. “

“A learning community is a place where everyone learns. The teacher
is more of an instructor, and the students can teach the instructor
things too.
I like being a part of a learning community because it
is a lot less stressful. It’s like we are a big group, all learning
and teaching from each other. Everyone in a learning community plays
an equal roll [sic] and respects each other, and I feel happy and
respected in a learning community.”

“A learning community is a place were you can learn and feel safe, so
you can get a good education and not be bullied. I like being part
of a learning community because I get to learn safely.”

“A learning community is an enviroment [sic] in which someone can
feel comfortable asking questions and discussing difficult topics
with their peers. At Thetford Academy, I am a part of a large
learning community. I like being part of such a community because it
provides a sense of comfort and makes me feel that I can accomplish
many things by myself and with my peers

For more on electronic learning communities, these students and their
teacher recommend visiting the online resource
center at

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Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2008

How apropos! Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies from the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)

Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

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digital literacy requirements

Posted by Miranda on February 23, 2008

Digital Literacy:“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks efficiently and ethically to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

I’m still mulling over the digital literacy requirements that kids ought to have when they leave our school, but I’ve come up with a preliminary list.
First, the tools. I think everyone ought to know a little something about the tools they use. There’s no reason to think the computer as we know it will remain the main tool forever but it is now so kids should know:

Mechanical literacy

    Relationship between hard drive, processor and memory.
    Basic security: virus protection options, configuration of virus updates and scans
    Basic maintenance: disk tools such as chkdsk (PC), disk utility(Mac)

Basic software literacy:

    File types: should know some basic file extensions, such as .doc .jpg, .gif .xls .tif .txt and what they mean
    Should know how to save a document in different file formats
    Should know basic word processor formatting: page and section breaks, page numbering, headers and footers

Internet literacy:

    Basic search techniques – the use of quotation marks, Boolean operators
    Should know how to read a URL
    Should know how to validate a website and assess it for reliability (whois, wayback machine, external links, domain extensions
    should have an understanding of copyright and the concept of fair use
    Safety and Privacy:
    should understand that content published to the web is not private and survives forever
    should have basic training in recognizing and avoiding cyber bullying, trolls and predation
    Should know the concepts of basic HTML code, enough to recognize it anyhow
    Should know how to view the source code of any web site (this can also yield clues to the site’s validity)
    Should know the strengths and weaknesses of blogs, wikis and other “2.0” tools
    Should know how to format graphics for the web – understanding of graphic file formats and file size

Doesn’t seem like a lot does it? Yet many, if not most, of our students don’t know these things.

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